I’ll just come right out and say it, Google is ugly. As a designer that prides himself on creating, developing and using beautiful things, having to search, or check mail, or find a cafe’s phone number through any of Google’s multi-tentacled omnicorp products over the years has been wince inducing. In some ways, Google’s interfaces, designs and layouts are almost mirrors to the very brand and logo itself – ubiquitous, utilitarian, but hardly attractive.
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Some of this appears to be changing, however. Google has announced this month a company wide effort to clean up their act and provide more attractive interfaces and minimize extraneous information and tools in an effort to look and feel more intuitive and well, just better designed. By now you’ve probably seen and visited their newly designed search page – cleaner, tighter, and definitely better organized. Gmail appears to be next on the list, with this blog posting highlighting new themes that will dynamically expand for different browser windows and certainly comes across as easier to read and sort through.
And of course, the biggest design news out of Mountain View is Google+, a social network that could potentially rival Facebook. Designers were quick to note, and rightfully so, the artfully composed interfaces of the many features, especially Circles, with it’s animating diagrammatic-like spheres for organizing friends and it’s apparent drag and drop ease-of-use, elements that seemed surprisingly un-Google in nature. And learning that former Apple Macintosh designer, Andy Hertzfield, was given almost complete autonomy to develop and create the look and feel of Google+, added credence that perhaps Google was finally seeing the importance and value (both aesthetically and financially) in appealing to more discerning eyes.
It’s definitely a step in the right direction and already elements, like Google’s home page, feel and look much better. There’s no hope in changing that logo (though their holiday and themed remixes are certainly refreshing), but with these and future enhancements, using Google will hopefully be a lot less painful.